A four-way race for mayor is shaping up in Brockton, pitting a city councilor, a local health department code enforcement officer, and a retired businessman against incumbent Linda Balzotti, who is seeking a third term in the top job.
Although nomination papers will not be available until June, Ward 7 Councilor Christopher MacMillan and retiree Ron Matta have been on the campaign trail for months. Bill Carpenter, the city employee who also serves on the School Committee, entered the race earlier this month, debuting the slogan: “It Takes a Carpenter to Build a City.”
Balzotti, 52, is a native Brocktonian and its first female mayor. In her recent State of the City address, she outlined three years of efforts to preserve services in a tough economy, refresh a weary downtown district, and boost a lagging tax base with new business.
Brockton’s high long-term bond ratings and bonding practices have made it possible to implement a $36 million repair program with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, she said. That resulted in new roofs, boilers, and windows in eight of 23 city schools.
“These ratings prove to lenders, to investors, and to our partners in government that our city is on strong financial footing,” she said.
MacMillan, in his fourth term on the City Council, has a 10-point improvement plan he says would bring leadership back to City Hall, something all three challengers say is lacking.
Besides putting more police on the streets, MacMillan, 48, said he would host citywide meetings with residents to give them a voice.
“There is a much-needed connection missing from City Hall,’’ said MacMillan, who is employed by Veolia, a private entity that manages the city’s waste-water treatment plant.
“I know what needs to be done to move the city forward,’’ he said. “We are stagnant. People are frustrated. Changes need to be made.”
It is the second run for mayor for Matta, 70, organizer of a new grass-roots group called Brocktonians for Limited Taxation. He was soundly defeated by Balzotti in the 2011 election.
Matta said public safety is a priority, as is hiring a full-time city planner. He said he would focus on updating agreements with entities such as Stonehill College that don’t pay commercial rates for water.
“I will not be an invisible mayor,’’ Matta said. “My door and telephone number will always be available. No screened questions. Tell me what it is, and I will try to help.”
Carpenter, 56, a city Health Department code enforcement officer, said he wants to “bring Brockton back” by reclaiming neighborhoods, adding jobs and businesses, and offering “real” property tax relief. He said one of the ways to achieve it would be the purchase of the Aquaria desalinization plant on the Taunton River, for which the city now pays $5.8 million a year under contract but does not draw any water.
The city was mandated by the state years ago to find another source of water. It entered a 20-year contract with Aquaria that it hasn’t been able to break. The supply from a Kingston lake has proven to be enough.
Carpenter said he would support selling water to Advanced Power AG, a Swiss company that wants to build a power plant on the city’s south side and needs 2 million gallons a day to do it. “To thrive in the 21st century, you have to come up with more revenue than raising taxes and begging on Beacon Hill,’’ he said.
While Carpenter said partnering with Advanced Power would help turn around the city’s “anti-business” attitude, MacMillan, Matta, and Balzotti all oppose the power plant.
Balzotti knocked back Carpenter’s proposal, saying that it isn’t the first time the notion of buying the desalinization plant has been explored, and that it has been under discussion in City Hall “for a while.”
“I’m not going to negotiate in the newspaper,’’ she said. “Mr. Carpenter can lay out all the scenarios he wants, but any purchase has to be in the best interests of the ratepayers.”
Balzotti also rejected all three challengers’ statements that she is an absentee mayor who allows her staff to lead her.
”No decision is made in this building without my knowledge,’’ she said. “No mayor is run by department heads, and certainly not me.”
Among other accomplishments, Balzotti has touted a projected $650,000 in new savings from buying more than 7,000 street lights from National Grid, and her role in negotiations with 18 public employee unions and retirees for $7 million in savings this year on health insurance premiums.
That’s an estimated $28 million saved over the life of the four-year agreement, she said.
“Consensus was possible because we came together for the best of Brockton, not just for a short-term fix,’’ she said. “My concentration will be moving the city forward. I hope voters will see that and return me to office.”